The Randolph Street Community Garden celebrates freedom and the right to vote on June 19

By Dayae Lee, Associate Editor

On Sunday, the Randolph Street Community Garden will host its annual celebration of Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans after the end of the Civil War.

“Juneteenth is the celebration of final freedom for African Americans,” said Dawn Blackman, earth manager of RSCG. “Even though the war was over and African Americans were free in 1865, there were pockets in Texas where slaveholders continued to hold their slave. So it was that during the month of June, the federal government sent soldiers there to free them, and so since that time, Juneteenth has been celebrated.

The celebration will take place Sunday from 10 a.m. until dark near the intersection of Neil Street and Beardsley Avenue in Champaign. The event will begin with a parade and continue with food and art projects from Seitu Jones and other local organizations.

“We’ll have games, voter registration and just have a good time,” Blackman said. “It’s a general party.”

Blackman also said another major aspect of Juneteenth was voter registration, as it was “also the time when African Americans began to organize to vote.”

“One of the main activities of the June 19 celebrations was voter registration and studying the various tests and things that had been put in place to prevent African Americans from voting,” Blackman said.

Accordingly, the Sunday event, which takes place during the early voting period for this year’s primary elections, also celebrates the right to vote.

“This year, the Sunday program takes place during early voting,” Blackman said. “We therefore invite people who vote this Sunday to come and celebrate their vote.”

Blackman, who has been RSCG’s steward since 2006, said the garden has “always celebrated June 19”.

“He grew over the years,” Blackman said. “And some years it’s a weekday, so we have it in the evening and just have a light brunch and celebrate final freedom and do voter registration.”

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